MCPHERSON COUNTY — Phyllis Scherich has unique memories of the Santa Fe Trail — and no, she did not travel this trail as a pioneer in search of a better life. She played on the trail, years after the pioneers came and went, while attending a historic one-room schoolhouse in McPherson County.
“We played in [the] ruts during recess. I'd say they may have been 6 inches or so deep in some of them,” Scherich said.
She will be sharing memories of that school during a 2 p.m. Oct. 5 presentation at the McPherson Museum and Arts Foundation, 1111 E. Kansas Ave.
The old Santa Fe Trail, an important trail for commerce and settlers in its day, ran through the school yard of the old Santa Fe School. That trail will celebrate an anniversary in 2021.
“The Santa Fe Trail ran through present day McPherson County prior to the formation of the county,” said Linda Colle with the Santa Fe Trail Association “ The Santa Fe Trail was a trail of commerce, the interstate of it’s time. It was a two way highway with both the American traders taking goods to Santa Fe, New Mexico and the Hispanic traders taking goods east.”
The Santa Fe Trail began in 1821 with Missouri trader William Becknell’s first trip to Santa Fe — meaning the anniversary of the trail is less than two years away. The Trail opened up Kansas to settlement during the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854.
“People moving west used the trail as a route west and people moving into McPherson County used it as the county was settled,” Colle said. “The Santa Fe Trail pretty much ended in 1879 – 1880 when the railroad finally reached down to New Mexico. However, the use as a commerce route ended earlier in Central Kansas as the railroad reached this area in the mid- 1860s.”
The Santa Fe School was located in Section 10 of King City Township — located on the east side of 15th Avenue in the NW/4 of Section 10, T20S, R3W at the north edge of the half-mile line.
“Nothing is left now that can be seen but the built up area in the field where the stone foundation used to be,” Colle said. “Historical records indicate that ruts were visible in the schoolyard. The D.A.R marker located south of McPherson on the east side of 14th Avenue and north of Eisenhower Road was originally located in the school yard north of the school and was later moved to its present location.
The school she attended was destroyed in a tornado in June of 1950. At the time a new two-room school was already under construction. The final Santa Fe School was officially closed in 1984.
The McPherson County Historical Society and Quivira Chapter, Santa Fe Trail Association are helping keep the memory of the school alive with presentations like the one at the museum.
Scherich will share stories and photos from days at the Santa Fe School. She hopes others will join in.